While many companies still struggle with implementing even the most basic CRM solutions, others have moved a big step forward by including their service organization and letting it share customer information with marketing and sales. Service contributes to a company’s success in many ways, and understanding this contribution makes the performance impact of an integrated CRM solution obvious and significant.
First of all, service helps to improve customer satisfaction. Especially in the B2B environment where manufacturers usually sell to a limited number of potential customers and compete against a limited number of known competitors. Here, customer satisfaction is probably more important than anywhere else. Suppliers have to rely on long-term relationships with their customers and profit from referrals as the most effective way to generate new business. Conversely, dissatisfied customers will switch easily and damage the suppliers’ reputation by spreading negative reports.
We all know that complex products in complex environments can have problems, but how effectively these are rectified by the service organization determines whether or not this will work for or against the supplier. Not only that, service processes need to be optimized just like any other, and to do that a close cooperation between service and sales is required so there is a seamless transition from an opportunity to a project. Sales people usually have a good relationship with the decision-makers in the customer´s organization and they can use this relationship to de-escalate a potentially harmful situation. But in order to do so, they have to know that such situation exists and how it evolved.
New sales is another area where service can contribute in many ways, directly and indirectly. Service is an effective source for leads since they are in regular contact with the customers between sales cycles. They often hear of upcoming projects long before sales people do. But how many leads get lost just because there is no efficient way to pass them to the right person? Or, because the service reps are unaware of sales process and possibilities because they live solely within a service environment. In many companies, this valuable source of leads is totally neglected.
On the other hand, a prerequisite for winning in a sales cycle is knowledge. The more the sales person knows about the client’s situation and the deeper this knowledge is, the higher the chance of winning an order. The knowledge generated by service can provide a valuable input for the sales person, provided it is recorded and readily available.
And, last but not least, a service business needs to be selling as much as product or system business, and this requires the same tools and information. Why not share it?
Service is a revenue source, but it entails significant costs. A high-efficiency service process helps keep these costs under control and maintain competitiveness. By the same token, service efficiency improves reputation and customer satisfaction, thus closing the loop.
Service CRM is all about sharing information by using a common database and having workflows in place, spanning over department boundaries. Sales and marketing have easy access to information in service while service knows what happens in sales and marketing. All activities are well coordinated and focused on the customer. And that means a stronger relationship, which is the goal of CRM.